Real estate has a customer service problem, this is not news. Many properties will do almost anything to increase their chances of an improved rating or positive comment on social media. But maybe real estate’s customer service problem has deeper roots in the culture that surrounds the industry. Maybe the poor customer service is a by-product of how the industry talks about itself and the language it uses in conducting everyday business.
Within real estate there is one word that is particularly loathsome: “asset.” The word sounds like a term from the world of accounting or private equity, sectors that don’t exactly inspire positive feelings in most people. In real estate, asset is a synonym for building, property, community, and other such places where real human beings live.
Presumably, the word asset is used as a catch-all for different types of dwellings real estate owners own, which is fair. Every property is unique and so to have to describe each one when time is short would be an annoyance.
By using the word asset, however, the real estate industry is highlighting its true colors: it’s just big finance by another name. That every property is unique is the point! People do not come home after a long day of work to an asset. Friends do not visit you at your asset. Students do not aspire to live in an asset. That this generic and dare we say soulless term is used to describe so many people’s place of residence is surely doing both the people and the places a disservice.
If real estate eradicated the word asset and replaced it with any one of the substitutes listed above (or others, we’re open to creative suggestions!) perhaps this nudge would have an impact on those on the service side of the industry. When the industry stops using this five letter four- letter word, we’re confident that positive feedback will follow from its customers.